UK Government plans for “clean” coal power stations could create 50,000 jobs, Energy and Climate Change Minister Ed Miliband forecast last night.
The new industry will involve extracting carbon from flue emissions, transporting the greenhouse gas, and storing it beneath the North Sea.
It will be created after the government chose the winning demonstrator project from a competition among electricity generating firms, and three more pilot schemes will also be launched, Chancellor Alistair Darling said in his Budget package.
Mr Miliband told the Commons the UK will lead the world in development of the new technology, which will enable the UK to use coal to generate some of the electricity the country needs.
Dunfermline and West Fife Liberal Democrat MP Willie Rennie said Scottish Power’s huge coal-fired Longannet Power Station in Fife is likely to be chosen for one of the pilot schemes.
SNP energy spokesman Mike Weir, MP for Angus, intervened in Mr Miliband’s Commons statement to protest that, had the government not dragged its heels, a carbon capture gas generation project planned for Peterhead would by now be under way. He said the announcements were “better late than never”.
The energy secretary ignored his criticism but confirmed the Firth of Forth area could be one selected for a demonstration project. More details of the proposals will be in a consultation paper this summer.
No breakdown of the location of the new jobs was available last night.
At an earlier briefing Mr Miliband said carbon capture and sequestration gave the UK a massive opportunity – “a new North Sea industry”.
Sam Gardner, policy officer at WWF Scotland, said Scotland has the potential to lead the development of carbon capture storage technology, with the proposals for CCS retrofit at Longannet, the potential for retrofit at Peterhead, and the access to significant carbon storage reservoirs in the North Sea oil and gas fields.
Chancellor Alistair Darling was under fire last night for excluding the powerhouse of the north from support from green funds in his Budget. Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Liberal Democrat MP John Thurso expressed “bitter disappointment” no provision was included to help exploit the immense tidal forces in the Pentland Firth, where prototype generating devices are being tested. He said: “Given how advanced the Pentland Firth is this is a major omission by the government.”